Dr. Johan Schijf , University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Graduate student Kathleen Marshall, who will defend her thesis in Nov 2011, has performed a comprehensive investigation of YREE sorption on hydrous Fe oxides (HFO) and Mn oxides (HMO) in 0.5 M NaCl as a function of pH. Both experiments were conducted under anaerobic conditions (N2 atmosphere). The HFO study has been published in Marine Chemistry and a manuscript about the HMO study is being prepared for Chemical Geology. Sorption on HFO in the pH range 4-8 was modeled with a non-electrostatic surface complexation model (SCM) that accounts for (de)protonation of the amphoteric hydroxyl functional groups, plus interactions of free YREE cations and YREE-chloride complexes with the neutral and negatively charged sites. The latter also interact with YREE-hydroxide complexes at elevated pH. Each YREE species forms surface complexes with either one (monodentate) or two (bidentate) hydroxyl groups, releasing 1-3 protons per sorbed cation. Ce sorbs as strongly as the trivalent YREEs, yielding no evidence of Ce oxidation. Unlike HFO, which spontaneously precipitates from Fe(III) at pH > 3 within the experimental solution, HMO particles had to be prepared externally by oxidation of Mn(II) with Mn(VII) (as permanganate) in alkaline solution. The reaction could produce Mn(III), yet based on iodometric titrations the resulting solids are nearly 100% Mn(IV)O2. X-ray powder diffraction analysis moreover shows them to be amorphous with no recognizable crystalline phases. Application of the SCM that was developed for HFO indicates that YREE sorption on HMO, generally stronger than on HFO, does not involve interactions that release 3 protons although this may reflect greater analytical uncertainty at high pH, where the YREEs are almost completely sorbed. Prominent Ce oxidation, catalyzed by the HMO surface, causes Ce to sorb about a hundred times more strongly than the trivalent YREEs.
Given that Fe and Mn oxides coexist in most marine sediments, Kathleen has also studied YREE sorption on Fe/Mn oxide composites, synthesized by oxidation of mixed Fe(II)/Mn(II) solutions with alkaline permanganate. This work is scheduled to be submitted to Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Composites containing 10%, 50%, and 75% HFO were prepared and used in separate sorption experiments in 0.5 M NaCl over a similar pH range. Their Fe and Mn contents were verified by ICP-MS, while X-ray powder diffraction analysis again revealed no crystalline phases. The sorption experiments indicate that distribution coefficient patterns for the trivalent YREEs are well represented by linear combinations of the end member SCMs. The same is not true for their absolute concentrations because the composites are stronger sorbents than either of the pure phases individually, probably due to a larger specific surface area or higher density of sites. On the other hand, Ce sorption cannot be explained with an interpolated model. The SCM for pure HMO does not correctly predict Ce oxidation, as this is not a reversible equilibrium process, nor is the Ce distribution coefficient for Fe/Mn oxide composites simply a linear combination of the measured end member values. It was found instead that Ce distribution coefficients for the composite containing 25% HMO are about 2 log units higher than values for pure HFO, but less than 0.5 log units lower than those for pure HMO. Just a minor fraction of Mn oxides in marine sediments can ostensibly give rise to a substantial positive Ce anomaly under anaerobic conditions, which consequently is not a reliable proxy for the redox state of the overlying bottom waters. Bearing this in mind, future interpretations of sedimentary Ce anomaly records should be made with appropriate caution.